Five years ago, you might have found Jay Reeves working his shift at a Chinese restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. Now, you can find him on the billboard that hangs over said restaurant. Launching off the success of TV-hit All-American, Jay Reeves earned the starring role in DIsney+’s Safety, released earlier this year.
A jack-of-all-trades, Jay has expanded from stage, to TV, to film, to music, demonstrating his versatility. Maybe it has something to do with all the years he spent playing football, but Jay is having no problems scoring in the entertainment industry.
Jay Reeves sat down with Rollacoaster to discuss the déjà vu moments he’s experienced because of his star-making roles, what he learned from Taye Diggs and Denzel Washington, and when to expect his first album. Don’t worry, he’s not getting distracted. Jay Reeves has the discipline to make it all happen and so much more.
(LEFT) suit MARCELL VON BERLIN (RIGHT) Full look DIOR
suit MARCELL VON BERLIN Full look DIOR
This year Disney+ released Safety, which you star in. Were you familiar with Ray McElrathbey’s story, which the film is based on, before starting production?
His story was definitely something I learned about for the role. I didn’t know Ray’s story at all. In fact, I was Ray’s brother’s age when Ray was doing everything the film is about. It was cool for me to go back to that time and just also think about where I was, but also pay attention to his story.
The story is really powerful for anyone watching, but as a former football player yourself, were there aspects of his story that you identified with more personally?
Yeah, the football-aspect definitely resonated with me and I could relate to it because I had spent so much time playing growing up. When I was young and a fan of all these sports movies, I always wanted to make one and make it look good. I tried to include that ounce of detail that you need to show that you understand what the actual game is like. So I made sure I hit my cleats, taped my fingers, I did everything that real football players do, and I just had fun with that. I also identified with Ray’s experience growing up with a single mom. For a while in my life, I grew up with just my mom, so just having that single parent or single guardian lifestyle was something that I related to as well.
Was there an added pressure to play a real, living person for the role in Safety?
There was definitely pressure, especially in my situation when I had Ray right next to me on set a lot of the time. Ray would be showing up at practice and not saying anything, which is probably even more intimidating. He would watch us and then had moments where he was pushing us from a football perspective, so it was definitely hard. But I think it helped me learn to trust whoever you’re working with. You learn to trust. I trusted Disney+ and the whole team making the film because I knew they weren’t going to make me look like a fool or make Ray look like a fool.
Coat MARCELL VON BERLIN
Coat MARCELL VON BERLIN
What is it like for you as someone who decided to leave football to pursue an acting career, but has ended up in two roles – All-American and Safety – that center around the sport you left?
There is definitely a bit of déjà vu because I had no idea I was going to end up being a part of two different two football shows back-to-back. I’ve enjoyed the roles because it lets me pay homage to all the players that didn’t make it to the league, who are at home or working whatever job. I think it’s important for me to represent them with my platform, showing there are options if going pro doesn’t work out. on a big level. For us who played football, I think we all have a passion for the game. So it had been a little bit of a déjà vu moment, which I’ve grew to love. And look, I’m not mad at it. If they want to keep put me in pads, hey, let’s go.
I think most people would think of actors and football players as very different. Is there something that you think is integral to both?
I think people do think of them as separate groups, but what actors and athletes tend to have in common is discipline. Discipline was something that I learned truthfully in football and I apply every day to my acting. For both, I try to just to put my head down and work, and pay attention to results without fixating on them. Hard work beats talent and I think discipline is what I learned from the both.
You have already worked with some of the biggest names in the industry – Taye Diggs on All-American, Denzel Washington on The Tax Collector – is there a lesson you’ve learned so far that has stuck with you?
Treat it like a job. Everyone looks at this movie star career and thinks it’s all fun. But the moment you stop seeing acting as your job, you’ve lost. That was something I learned specifically from Denzel and from Tay. These guys are really focused on the work. They want to act. They’re there to act. And if they worried about billboards and sales, they wouldn’t focus on the work like they need to do.
I know I’m asking you to go against this advice in a way, but has there been a moment yet where you’ve acknowledged how far you’ve come as an actor in the industry?
I don’t feel like I’ve ever truly have that one moment. When I look back at everything so far, it’s like I’m still dreaming. It feels like it still hasn’t really hit yet. What has been cool were that a lot of the billboards for projects I worked on were over places I used to work at. Like I used to work at the Chinese restaurant underneath the big billboard on Sunset Boulevard. I used to work at the London Hotel and there was a billboard down the street from there. I was manager at the Chick-fil-A around the corner from the billboard at Hollywood Boulevard. So when you put it in that perspective, I think it feels more real that I’m getting somewhere and working towards the dream.
Along with your acting, you’ve also started getting involved with the music scene, just releasing your second single “South Central” with Shapiro. Was music always a goal for you or something you’ve become interested recently?
Music was actually just around me because of my close friends. They are all heavy into music, they don’t even watch TV. They barely know what I’m doing in my acting career. Because of them, it’s just always been around me and I started using it and it’s just super fun. For me it’s more of a hobby, but it’s so cool what we come up with. And hey, if a fan base comes along, I would be grateful. If not, I’m grateful just to be able to have that creative outlet.
Full look DSQUARED, Watch OMEGA
Full look DSQUARED, Watch OMEGA
And with South Central, you weren’t just performing, but also involved in the production. Do you usually find yourself trying to get involved behind the scenes with music and acting?
For music, I’m definitely ten times more hands-on than I am in the film industry, right now at least. For music, I’ll hop on an EP for a project, a whole entire mixtape and get in on the production side of things. I just executive produced an EP for Shapiro. And I’ve directed music videos for some of the music projects I’ve worked on. I’ll direct the music video. That’s almost like my playground where I’m allowed to experiment and push artist and push for what I believe in creatively. I think it just prepare me for the big stuff, and trying to grow into more of a producer role in the film industry in the future.
Is that the plan for what comes next? What are you working towards in the short-term?
Some of my major idols are guys like Brad Pitt because he has a plan B. Even if he isn’t in a movie every year, he’s involved in so many as a producer or behind the scenes. I just want to tell great stories even the stories that have an impact on the audience. And I think by acting and producing, I’ll be able to have more longevity in this industry. In the short-term, I’ve been getting some great scripts, so hopefully, I can bring one of them to life in 2021. As far as music, I’m definitely dropping probably a whole album of my own soon. I’m probably about 30% done and I just started, so that’s a good feeling. And yeah, we just get to see what happens.